DREAM by Frank Carter

DREAM by Frank Carter
I'm lying, I'm listening;
It’s all I can do.
It’s stopped now.

See the silence.
Feel the waiting.
We were real, living men once,
Now just bits and shadows
Beaten, broken, breathless.

Speak to me, Tommy.
Remember, how you talked
Of those summers in Margate and
Building sand-castles with the kids?
Scrumping apples at Lord Whatsit’s place
And playing hookey so’s you could lie in the grass 
with Mavis from the Bakery?
Your wedding speech, Tommy, when
Everyone laughed in the wrong places?
And how your missus’ smile
Is the light in your life?
It’s stopped now.

And there’s my dear, old Deepdale:
Cloth caps and Bovril.
Dubbin and sweat.
Half-time oranges,
Cyril centre-half,
Arthur on the wing
Crossing for me
To head the goal
That wins the cup
For Preston-North-End.

Back then and yesterday,
Yesterday rain.
Four years of yesterdays
Raining shells and bullets.

Today, the guns are silent.
The song-thrush isn’t singing.
The sun doesn‘t shine.
The air is all stench and decay.
And there's more rain tomorrow,

I'm lying, I'm listening
All I can do is

Saucy Dream Comes True by Nick Purkiss

It was the applause, always the applause. Every night when Jonathan closed his eyes, he could see and hear his adoring audience showing their appreciation for another triumphant performance. Women of a certain age would lose all inhibition in making their affection clear. Their partners would clap and nod knowingly in recognition of his enviable appeal to the fairer sex. Even children would squeal with excitement, their faces red from laughter at his effortless hilarity.

It had been that way ever since his perfectly timed ‘Baa’ as second sheep from the left in the Year 2 nativity. It had earned a spontaneous standing ovation – well, his mum had leapt to her feet in the front row, clapping and blowing kisses in his direction. This caused one of the kings to forget which gift he was proffering before promptly bursting into tears and making a hasty and tearful exit in the direction of the boys’ toilets.

Undeterred by the ‘silly over-reaction’ of the boys’ parents and head teacher, his doting mum was more convinced than ever he was destined to be a star and he was delighted to be indulged. She assured him ‘jealousy’ was behind his failure to land leading roles in subsequent school productions although even the head had to admit his oak tree portrayal in the Robin Hood panto was unsurpassed in its poise.

Her conspiracy theory gathered momentum when, despite appearing in her hand-made, full Dickensian urchin costume at preliminary readings, he failed to land the role of Dodger in a local production of Oliver! Still, she maintained, Jonathan managed to steal the show as part of Fagin’s gang despite being annoyingly obscured from view by the ‘awkward big boy’ determined to steal his thunder.

A back-street agent begrudgingly agreed to take him on his books when he left drama school with a ‘pass’ in his diploma but, despite his mum’s almost daily badgering by phone or in person for the last five years, he seemed unable to land his big break – until now.

His latest reverie was interrupted by a knock on his door and those magical words – “You’re on in five, Jonathan.” He’d replayed that phrase in his head thousands of times but now it was reality.

He stood up, straightened his cardigan in the mirror saying to himself, “This is it,” and took a deep breath before turning the handle and stepping out.

“The popcorn, crisps and chocolate buttons are on the table, just as you asked, and there’s even a bottle of shandy. Curtain up in one minute.”

The happy family scene was so familiar to Jonathan from the numerous takes and rehearsals which had prolonged the agony of his wait for his big moment.

The actor playing the father was an experienced pro who managed to conceal the undoubted pain from his scalded hand following a domestic mishap on the morning of filming. His bad luck had been Jonathan’s good fortune.

The scene unfolded and Jonathan could barely hold the remote control in his sweating hand due to the nervous sense of anticipation. “There!” he shouted and almost leapt in the air as he pressed the pause button with all his might.

He had timed it perfectly. Frozen along the bottom of the screen was the caption ‘Spice up your family’s meals with our new range of Saucy Sauces’. Above it was the hand, poised with the bottled condiment at the perfect angle to display its eye-catching label. But it wasn’t just any hand it was HIS hand, unmistakable due to the scar left when one of his daydreams had caused him to staple himself to the cardboard during an uninspiring craft lesson.

He could barely breathe with excitement as he turned his head to the seat on his left. There, his mother drew a tissue from her apron to dab away her tears of pride and joy before composing herself, looking lovingly at him and pronouncing: “And they said you’d never make it!”

A Dream Come True? By Sue Scrini

A Dream Come True? By Sue Scrini 

It has a lot to answer for, that fairy tale 
The young girl dreams of a frog prince, changed by a kiss.
Her pinnacle of ambition to attract a male 
Happy ever after, ensure a life of bliss

But, if that handsome prince should be a slimy toad 
With poison kiss, all aspects of her life to o’ersee.
After she has fallen for his charm overload 
Then she realises she is no longer free.

If family and friends dare try to intervene, 
His childish sulks and raging silence last for days.
The careful bruises are on places never seen 
His venom quells her spirit in countless ways

The irony strikes her only when she has left him 
They have a lot to answer for, those brothers Grimm.

The Best Days of Our Lives by Barrie Purnell


As you’re getting old and your time’s nearly gone
You’ve few decisions to make that will last very long,
No time left to be what you wanted to be,
No time left to go there, no time left to see,
You try to separate imagined truth from the lies
Of all the best days of your lives

All the wrongs you want righted all the laws you want changed,
All those things in your life you wanted rearranged,
All those letters of protest that you wanted to send,
You find there’s no time left for anger, no time to pretend,
Just time to remember before the reaper arrives
All the best days of your lives.

Although love’s more friendship now than desire,		
You’ve also found hatred has lost much of its fire,
But love still propels you through all of life’s madness,
Through occasional joy and inevitable sadness.
In your head youth remains, that feeling never dies
That you had, in the best days of your lives.

All those long-haired rockers you used to admire
With their lyrics that told you of love and desire,
Have now been rewritten by love’s reality,
You know life is what it is, not what you want it to be,
And draw comfort from memories that often arise
Of the best days of your lives.

You look at young people with their futures before them,
Think of all the advice that you wanted to give them,
You realise, as you struggle to master your outdated gadget,
You have no knowledge at all of the world they inhabit,
They’ve no interest in memories, which is all that survives,
Of the best days of your lives.

You try to provide the youth with a few warning signs,
But it’s right that the young have freedom to decline, 
Life’s a journey that’s new for every generation,
They will all find their own road to hell or salvation.
We all become victims of ourselves in disguise
Looking back to the best days of our lives.

When you get really old and your senses are failing,
And good days are those when you continue inhaling,
And you find it’s easier to be honest than continue the lies,
And speak truth to your enemies to enjoy the look in their eyes,
You’ll no longer look back with regret and, to your surprise,
Find these may be the best days of your lives.

Bedtime Stories by Andrew Bell

Bedtime stories

You say you have heard bad things
about our troubled earth
and it's keeping you awake.
What can I do to allay your fears?

I could tell you another story,
perhaps remind you, now Spring
is here, of that secret kindling of ants
and beetles in the further reaches

of the garden, and all the liveliness
and merriment we found around
the lilacs and the birches.
Or tell you about that time

when a sparrow hawk thumped down
among the hellebores, ripping through
a collared dove, his fearsome eyes,
starlike, flaming gold, fixing me, boasting

his entitlement, as he spread a cloak
around his feast. I could have offered you
a sugar-coated version, but perhaps
I should trust that, in time, you will come

to know how nature really works.
Through the window, I can see the rain
beating against the pane.
You ask if we are in for another flood.

You want to know more: ask why
the sky is so often angry, why, across
the world, they say the trees are rasping
for want of rain.

But there are some things I cannot tell you.
Questions about how humanity has abused
the earth: this shameful legacy
we have fashioned, that now seeks payment.

And, in me, the feelings of guilt: knowing
that I remain a co-conspirator, conniving 
in this firestorm of complacency and denial,
looking on, even as the Gods of fire

and water are thrown out of kilter.
All these things you will come to know
when the time is right.
But it is late, and I must leave you to rest.

So let us finish with a prayer and remember
that in the end, it is only love that can heal
the earth. Then I must say goodnight, holding
a picture image of you slipping into sleep.

Doggerel by John Holmes

(A Brighton-based whippet confronts a writer) 

Excuse me, all this scribbling, does it have a use? 
Because if so, to me it’s exceedingly abstruse.
All I see is moping and lazing about,
When you could do something useful like taking me out. 
But I’ll let you have your hobby - it could never be mine,
Besides, being your guard dog is my job full time.
I’ll leave you to your dreaming and sitting on your arse.
If I ever get the urge to write I’ll surely let it pass,
Although I see there’s others, deluded just like you,
Folks with too much thinking time and not enough to do.

But I quite like Wednesdays when you dreamers all meet,
Though I wouldn’t mind a sofa and a blanket for my feet.
With all you lot’s pretensions you deserve to be on stage 
On the old West Pier you could be the short-lived rage;
A friendly enough bunch, though different every week,
With readings often funny, sometimes weird or even bleak.
And if by fluke you prosper in this peculiar writing game,
Don’t forget your Wednesday mates - Olliebob’s the name.
You can mock this effort - to me it doesn’t matter,
But only call it doggerel if you’re sure you could do better. 

Cadwaladr by David R Graham

David has responded to the trigger horse 

Just before dawn, the owls up in Fullers Wood called to each other as young Mordicai followed his father across the cobbled, shadowed filled, yard. Mordicai was cold and sleepy, but he would not miss this day for any amount of warmth or sleep. 
His master, Lord Kendrick Griffin, was leaving to join the King’s crusade to relieve Jerusalem. 
Mordicai’s father, Jared, along with many more squires and men-at-arms, would be accompanying Sir Kendrick on his long journey. 
They would be away for a long time.
With his head bowed, Mordicai held a spluttering torch high and clutched his shawl to his throat as he followed his father between the stout wooden doors beneath the high arched entrance to the inner chamber of the stable block. 
This was the first time Mordicai had been allowed into the forbidden area. 
This was the first time his eyes would behold Cadwaladr.
Lord Kendrick’s war horse.
Forewarned by his father, with bated breath, Mordicai moved to the shadow of the circular chamber. Holding the torch aside his attuned senses inhaled the comingled stench of horse dung and the sweet smell of hay. 
Muttered voices rebounded off stone.
The click clack of hooves on stone.
Flicking light appeared from a high tunnel. 
The sound of iron striking stone rang loud.
Two squires entered the chamber.
A dark form filled the tunnel.
Then, led by two burly grooms, Cadwaladr entered the chamber. 
Standing tall, black as a moonless night, wide-eyed Cadwaladr pranced and rippled with barely supressed energy.
Spellbound by the size of the creature, with hoof beats ringing loud in his ears, Mordicai bit down on a cry of awe.
From the darkness Mordicai watched his father and the grooms and squires saddle Cadwaladr, place a coat of chain mail on the mighty horse, and drape that with a white caparison bearing large red crosses. 
Even as he watched the war horse being prepared, Mordicai heard jangling, metallic footfalls descending a flight of stone stairs. 
Then, led by two squires, Lord Kendrick entered the chamber. 
Clothed from head to foot in chain mail, and comparisoned in a white gown and long cloak with red crosses, his Lordship stood tall and broad. Upon his head he wore a round helmet and against his thigh hung a long sword.
Cadwaladr, seeing his master, tossed his black head, and pranced and whinnied, eager to be off.
Lord Kendrick mounted the horse and led him beneath the arched doorway into the outer courtyard. 
The sun was up over the courtyard. 
To the sounds of the readying baggage train, Mordicai watched Lord Kendrick holding Cadwaladr on a tight rein  as the horse pranced, its hoof falls echoing loudly as man and beast passed through the castle keep. 
In their wake rode Mordicai’s father, Jared, and nine other squires and grooms. The combined hoofbeats of their mounts drummed loud as the party cantered across the timber drawbridge and unto the open countryside.
Mordicai’s mother, Bronwen, laid an arm across his shoulder as he watched his father ride off into the distance. 
Mordicai was not to know that he would never see his father again. 
When the party had fallen below the horizon, and the baggage train was preparing to set out, Bronwen, patting Mordicai’s shoulder, said, ‘Shall we go and have some hot milk and honey and bread cakes?’

Cadwaladr bore Lord Kendrick to Dartmouth. From where the party took ship to Lisbon, and from there to Marseille, and from there, to Rome. From Rome they took the long sea voyage to Acra. From there they journeyed through the Holy Land to Jerusalem. 
On that long and arduous trek across central Europe Cadwaladr carried his master through several bloody pogroms against the killers of Christ and other heretics to the true Cross. 
Besieged for many months in Jerusalem by Saladin’s mighty Arab army Lord Kendrick’s horse Cadwaladr, although weakened by hunger, was itself one of the remaining sources of food. 
Lord Kendrick, unwilling to allow his horse to suffer such an ignominious end, and in defiance of his fellow knights, refused to surrender, chosing instead to go up against the enemy one last time. 
Aware that he was being readied for battle a new energy surging through Cadwaladr emaciated frame. 
The gates were thrown open.
Resplendent in full battle dress, horse and rider cantered forth. 
Before them stood the serried ranks of the enemy horde.
Hearing Lord Kendrick draw his sword, Cadwaladr, snorting and whinnying, pounded the hardpacked sand with his iron shod hooves.   
Raising his sword aloft Lord Kendrick cried aloud. 
In response, Cadwaladr reared high, snorted and whinnied aloud, flailed the air with his forelegs, dropped down, and leap forward into a ground eating gallop.

Horse and rider were mere metres from the enemy ranks when, unseated by a lance, Lord Kendrick heard the cry go up.




Dead Ringer by David R Graham

A Thriller from David

‘Stan Whitman. I’m Jack Shackler’s agent.’
‘Bobby Holler. What do you want?’
‘You’re the spitting image of Jack.’
‘I know that. What do you want?’
‘How’d you like to be Jack’s stand in?’
‘Stand in?’
‘His double.’
‘Are you serious?’
‘Very. Jack’s in great demand. He can’t be everywhere at once. He needs a double.’
‘I don’t sound like Jack.’
‘No problem. It’s strictly a walk-on role.’
‘How long for?’
‘Until the pressures off.’
‘How long will that be?’
‘Difficult to say. He’s a popular guy.’
‘What exactly would I have to do?’
‘Appear where he can’t. Parties, receptions, premiers, etc. No TV, no interviews.’
‘What do I get in return?’
‘An all-expenses paid lifestyle. A grand a week. Plus, Jack’s identical wardrobe. To keep.’
‘...Is this legit? 
‘...I’d want a contract.’
‘No contract. Strictly cash.’
‘When do I meet Jack?’
‘You don’t.’
‘When do you need me?’
‘As of this Saturday. An A List party, in Juan les Pins.
‘Where’s that?’
‘South of France.’
‘Sounds good. Strictly cash. No cash, no show.’
‘That’s the deal.’

Bobby still found it hard to believe his luck. He had been banking a thousand bucks a week for the past nine months. Now, wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit, he was being chauffeured to Grauman’s for the latest movie premiere, in company with a well-known actress. Okay, so she was off limits. Who knew.

The stalker wanted an audience when he took down Jack Shackler. So he chose this red-carpet event for maximum publicity. 
Bobby Holler’s feet had barely touched the famous forecourt, when the stalker moved in. He swiftly pumped four .38’s into Bob’s chest and turned to flee. 
In the ensuing confusion and panic, he was cut down by a hail of .45 slugs fired by four members of Jack Shackler’s personal bodyguard. 
His body was handed over to the LAPD. 
Bobby Holler was rushed by private ambulance to a private hospital. Where he was pronounced DOA.


After being gunned down outside Grauman’s just eight weeks ago by Guy Montelle, the superstar is said to have made a remarkable recovery. 
Immediately following his attack Montelle — who had been stalking Jack and making death threats against him for the past year — was shot to death by Jack’s private bodyguards.

‘You got the creep, Stan.’ 
‘We got him, Jack. It worked like a charm. 
‘I can come out of hiding.’
‘Sure can. Just play the part until the spotlight shifts. And you’re in the clear.’
‘No comebacks, Stan. No loose ends?’
‘None whatsoever. It was a sweet operation, Jack. We’re clean.’

‘Yeah, Chief?’ 
‘Missing male for you. Robert Anthony Holler’, the Chief said striding up and handing over a glossy colour photograph. 
‘Hey Chief!’
‘This is Jack Shackler!’ 
‘The superstar! Guy was gunned down outside Grauman’s. Last new year eve!’
‘No way! That’s a picture of Robert Anthony Holler! Just came through from his ol’ man in LAPD! Been missing close on a year.’
‘Well hell Chief, Robert Anthony Holler sure is a dead ringer for Jack Shackler.’ 

Time Flies by Michael Keeble

[A Centenarial story of love from Mike]
Time Flies
I was born on 16th June 1922 when George V was on the throne. He was the current Queen’s grandfather.  I was 14 when he died and his eldest son Edward V111 briefly sat on the throne, but was never crowned.  I remember that my Dad thought he was a waste of breath, but my Mum thought he was wonderful.  As it turned out, it seems that he was a bit of a fan of Herr Hitler, so perhaps my Dad was right. Fortunately, his brother, George VI, was not so susceptible to the sort of flattery that Mr Hitler handed out and agreed with Mr Churchill that we should never surrender.  
The way it was then, even though I had had very good results from my exams, there was no thought of sending a girl to university.  I left school at 14 and went to college to learn shorthand and typing.  My Dad was working in the Inland Revenue at the time and, as I had very good speeds in shorthand and typing, he found me a job there.  So, by the time war was declared I was 17 and already working as a secretary in the Inland Revenue.  
When war broke out, we were sent to Llandudno in Wales which was safer than staying in London during the blitz.  Life there was very peaceful and as a seventeen year old I was not short of admirers among the soldiers that came to the town.  My friends and I would go to the dance halls where we danced until we dropped.  Later in the war, the Americans came to town.  They had money and were much more fun than the British boys.  
I tried not to get too fond of any of the soldiers because they were about to go to fight in the war, and I had heard about too many girls who had lost sweethearts, but one tall handsome American soldier won my heart early in 1944.  I had been dancing for a while and was sitting this one out when this tall man came up to me and, very politely, introduced himself as Bill and asked if he could have the next dance.  He was so polite and so different from the British Tommies that I accepted willingly.  He really knew how to dance, not only the traditional dances that we were used to, but also dances like the jitterbug.  From the moment I met him, he was the only boy I wanted to step out with.  He went away in the spring and, apart from one letter from him at Christmas, I didn’t hear from him at all after that.  My Dad told me to try to forget him.  He said that he would have gone back home to America and would be resuming his life there.  I found it easier to believe that than to think that he had been killed.  Anyway, I learned to stop thinking about him.
We moved back to London soon after the war and lived in a nice semi-detached house in a quiet street in Harrow near the Metropolitan Line.  I soon made new girlfriends and started to go out to the local dances again.  I loved dancing.  This one night I had gone out with my friend Ruth and was dancing with a lad when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw Bill.  Perhaps I hadn’t managed to get him out of my mind after all.    My dance partner spun me round and I shook off the thought.  The dance finished and I thanked my partner and went over to sit with Ruth.  We were chatting to each other when I became aware of someone standing in front of me.  I looked around and there was Bill and he was asking me politely if he could have the next dance.  I flung my arms around him, and we danced till the end of the evening.  We were married later that year.  It was 1946 and I was 24 years old.
Bill had been demobbed in November 1945 and had come back to the UK to find me.  He had asked around in Llandudno and the Inland Revenue.  All he found out was that I had moved to Harrow, but he did not know the address.  He began to visit all the dance halls in the hope that he might find me and then that night he thought he had spotted me on the dancefloor.  He was afraid that I had not remembered him, and he was very nervous when he asked me to dance.  It was a relief to him when I flung my arms around him.
We visited his parents in New York, then came back to England where we set up home in Retford in Nottinghamshire.  My Dad helped Bill set up as a builder and after a couple of years of hard work the business was thriving.  Our son Alan was born in 1948 and our daughter Lucy in 1951.  Bill was still working all hours, so didn’t get to see the children much in the early years.
As the business prospered, we moved to a bigger house in a little village to the north of Retford.  All too soon the children left home, firstly for university and then to pursue their respective careers in Advertising (Alan) and engineering (Lucy).  
Lucy was first to be married in 1975 and produced Jasmine, our first grandchild, in 1978.  In 1980 Iain was born.  
1980 was a big year for us, as not only did we now have a second grandchild, but this was the year that Alan introduced us to his friend James.  He had told us that he would be visiting and that he was bringing a friend, so it was not a surprise when he turned up at the door with James in tow.  What was quite surprising was the way he sat us all down in the kitchen with a cup of tea and explained that he and James were moving in together.  
I had long suspected that Alan was homosexual (or gay as they like to say now) but had kept my own council.  I was afraid that Bill, who was very much a man’s man, would find it difficult to cope with.  In fact, Bill seemed nonplussed by the whole thing and said “Oh that’s nice, that will help with the mortgage” or something like that.  Following his lead, I said “I’m pleased for you both.  I hope it works out for you” and we carried on chatting in a normal way.  I liked James.  He was a quiet, polite, and very good-looking young man.
Later that night when we were alone, I asked Bill if he understood what Alan had meant.  “Of course I did” he said, “They are going to live together”.  “But did you understand that that meant they were lovers” I said.  He was silent for a long, long time, and I wasn’t sure if I should say anything more.  After an age he said “No, that’s OK.  If he is happy, then I am happy”.  I gave him the biggest hug!
Sadly in 1985 Lucy split up from her husband (I never did like him and even now I won’t mention his name) and came to live with us with the grandchildren.  Iain and Jasmine are lovely children, but they took a bit of time to settle in with us.  They both went to the village school and at first they struggled to make friends.  Lucy found a job with a small engineering firm in Gainsborough designing and making packaging machines so the children were with us at the end of school and during the school holidays.  I now understand why people have their children when they are young!
Alan and James married in 2014 and are very happy together.  Both are retired now and spend a lot of time doing charity work.  The grandchildren followed the same path as their mother and went to university.  They are bright children and both went to Cambridge.  Jasmine is very active in politics and Iain is a lawyer.  They are very busy, and I don’t see much of them.  They have their own lives to live.  Lucy had moved out of our house with the children in 1995 when she was made a director of the packaging company.  She moved into a nice house in the village, so I still see a lot of her.  She is now semi-retired and a non-executive director.  
Bill died on 11th September 2001.  He had been dozing in front of the TV in the lounge.  I remember coming in with a cup of tea for him.  The TV was showing live coverage of what we now know as the 9/11 horror.  Bill appeared to be asleep.  I put his tea down on the coffee table and stared with disbelieving eyes at the scenes on the TV, gradually coming to realise that this was not a film but was happening in real life.  Bill was New York City born and bred and I will never know whether the realisation of what was happening broke him or it was simply his time. 
I tried to stay in our house for as long as I could, but although I had lots of visitors, I was lonely.  After a year or two, I agreed to sell the house and move in with Lucy.  She converted a barn which she had in her garden, and I moved in there.  It has made a very happy home for me.
It is strange watching one’s children getting older.  Alan is almost completely bald.  Lucy’s hair has turned a fine white like my own.  Even the grandchildren are going grey.  Oh, I forgot to say, I have four great grandchildren and a great great grandchild on the way.  It is my hundredth birthday this year and the children are planning some big event to celebrate.
As I sit watching the Platinum Jubilee events taking place for the Queen (my fourth monarch if you count that idiot Edward) I cannot help but reflect on the way things have changed and how much I have seen.  
I am tired though.  Perhaps I will be able to sleep when I have given the family my hundredth birthday to celebrate.

The Fly by Joan Saxby

Joan's first entry for our new term 


The winter months have all gone by 
And summer lifts your mood
Until that nasty, dirty fly
Lands on your longed-for food.

You waft it off your dinner plate
And hope it goes away
But as you know it is our fate
To be a target all the day.

It lands upon your bread and jam
Your tea-time’s ruined too
It won’t land on my Sunday lamb
I vow, sat on the loo.

But sure enough, when from the oven
The lovely roast emerged
It and its friends, about a dozen
Towards my dinner surged.

I chased them round the table
With the daily in my hand
I showed them I was able
To make a Custer stand.  

And one by one I slew them
Those beasties, by my wrath
But resting in my armchair then
I was pestered by a moth.

I retired to bed for my repose
And fell asleep to find
A beastie landing on my nose
An insect of another kind.

What can I do to stop these pests?
I’m sick of chasing flies
I want to go without my vests
  And sit eating buns and pies.

I’d like to have a week in Spain
To cast off all my woes
But fear it would be all in vain
Because of those mosquitoes.

Joan Saxby.